Friday, November 6, 2009

Fear and Clinging

We all borrow trouble when approaching relationships by imagining problems and bad outcomes that haven't materialized--the relationship monster under the romantic bed. Other times, to avoid loneliness, we grasp and cling as if to a lifeboat in a threatening sea.

Both of these, fear and desperation, are turn-offs to a partner. And, in turning off a partner, the fears and aversion and grasping become self-fulfilling prophecies and self-reinforcing dynamics. Turning worse can push a relationship to be worse still. The relationship can get sucked down a vortex.

Yet, few things feel better than having an appealing partner approach us with interest and a desire to please. And in being pleased and desiring to please in return, the positive, harmonious aspect of a relationship can also become self-fulfilling and self-reinforcing. Reaching pinnacles of intimacy and joy can pull a relationship even higher.

And thus, romantic relationships become roller-coaster rides. Commonly, the crashes are more destructive than the pinnacles are positive. Experience enough cycles, and one becomes resigned to solitude of one sort or another. This can be actual solitude, or the solitude of a lifeless relationship, or the solitude of a life consumed by work and responsibilities, or the substitute of a pet who is at least constant.

The overall picture, for so many people, is just sad. With the right mind-set, good attitudes, and some healthy habits of interacting, we could all do so much better with each other.

We are a social species. Positive relationships with others are as vital to health and a good life as vitamins or exercise or oxygen. We resign ourseleves to eating spam in the dark, when--with a little insight and emotional courage--we could be enjoying feasts in the sunshine.